“When emotional, spiritual and physical suffering leads to meanings that unlock the mysteries of life, it strengthens compassion, gratitude, joy and wisdom. All spiritual teachings point out that it is precisely through the ways in which our lives are imperfect that we gain the chance to grow in wisdom.
Through tearing us down and forcing us to think about what really does matter, suffering sometimes offers an irreplaceable opportunity to see things through the wisdom of the heart as well as the mind.”
There are many people who at some point in their lives dream of making a difference. Very few, however, see this dream through to reality. I have always been in awe of, and humbly admired those who unselfishly put other people before themselves. As Dr. Martin Luther King Junior once said, “Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about the things that matter,” and with these inspiring words in mind I embarked on the first step of my journey, not to dream of making a difference anymore but to turn my dream into a reality.
I have been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to experience two professions that I love in my life, both of which I am absolutely passionate about. The first was in Theatre, acting to be precise and the second, the sacred work of Counselling.
I chose to do the bulk of my Fieldwork Placement (Internship), at St. Luke’s Hospice, partly I suspect, because of a need to confront my own concerns and fears around death and dying, and partly because of the belief that dying provides us with the most extraordinary and profound opportunity to wake up and heal our lives and to become more conscious human-beings.
While working at St Luke’s Hospice, often what started out as counselling the terminally ill and the bereaved became marriage and relationship counselling, working with families, young children and adolescents, counselling the elderly, working with issues around disability and addiction, trauma and crisis intervention and loss in all its many manifestations, and so provided me with ample opportunity to ‘flex my counselling muscles’ right across the spectrum.
Now it is nearly ten years later since I began my journey and my vision, my dream is a reality and when fear creeps in as it does at times, I try to let it go by reminding myself that with a lot of effort and a good dollop of trust in the process, my journey will unfold perfectly, exactly as it is meant to, and I will continue to find and develop my own unique ways of working, within the parameters of my training and what I understand to be ethical and appropriate.
Counselling as a profession is a genuine calling for me, however I believe that the simple act of caring and the desire to help, is a reflex action in all of us. When somebody falls down for example, we reach out to help them. When a husband or a child or a friend is feeling low, we automatically let them know that we care – so caring is, in a sense, the instinctive response of an open heart – the suffering of others spontaneously awakens in us a response of instant empathy.
Communication I believe is ultimately a function of the soul and that what happens to another human being in our presence is a function of who we are and not what we know. I also believe that there are neither utterly ignorant people nor are there perfectly wise people in this world of ours and so I base my work on the premise that as strangers initially, we come together to attempt to learn more than we already know. I believe we have all the resources and answers to our questions inside of us and sometimes we just need a little help in accessing them so as a Counsellor, I aspire to living the words of Virginia Satir: “I am a companion. I try to help people tune into their own wisdom.”
Sometimes I have to ask myself if it is possible to keep my heart open in the face of so much pain and suffering and not drown in it. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with the suffering of others because I haven’t dealt sufficiently with my own pain and fears. And I know that to truly be of service to others, I need to continuously question and face my own doubts, my resistances, my reactions and my needs. As one of my favourite teachers Baba Ram Dass says and I quote: “The reward, the real grace of conscious service, then, is the opportunity not only to help relieve suffering, but to grow in wisdom, experience greater unity and have a good time while we’re doing it.”
I love quotes. I love referring to the words of the wise women and men of our time and of times gone by. I feel that they have an important part to play in our lives. I am aware that there is tendency by some to dismiss them as cliches, but the mere fact that they have endured for so long and continue to endure is precisely because our Divine intuition, our souls, that part of ourselves that knows, recognises the truth inherent in them. The challenge though is not to simply pay lip service to these glorious gifts that we are offered, but to try and make them our own, to integrate them into our beings so that we live the words, we learn to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
So, one last quote from a book called “How can I help?” by an exquisite soul and teacher who goes by the name of Ram Dass, to whom I have referred to earlier in this missive. As a Counsellor and as a human being, this is what I aspire to. He says: “And finally, what of those moments when we question whether we’ve anything useful for others? What do we really have to offer, what do we really have to give? Everything, it turns out. Everything! If within each of us is that essence of Being which is in all things – call it God, Life, Energy, Consciousness – as open to all that, as we are in ourselves, so we have it to share, with one another.”
“Following Mantis” means putting that core aspect of yourself, your foundation of Spirit at the helm and letting it direct your intellect and ultimately your life.
The symbolism of the Praying Mantis includes:
Stillness, Awareness, Creativity, Patience, Mindfulness, Calm, Balance and Intuition.
An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quiet and reach a place of calm. It may also be a sign for you to be more mindful of the choices you are making and confirm that these choices are congruent.
for it is life
the very life of life
In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths of existence
the joy of growth
the splendour of action
the glory of power
For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision
But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory
and every tomorrow
a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!”
– Rumi –
– Ram Dass –
IMAGO Relationship Coach & Holistic Clinical Counsellor in Private Practice in Sedgefield and Knysna
Professional Registration: ASCHP and CCSA